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At a Glance
This collection is arranged alphabetically by subject and material type in 1 series.
The Papers document Jean-Marie Simon's work as a human rights investigator and photojournalist in Guatemala during the 1980s. The papers include Simon's correspondence, interviews and collected research utilized in her various writings and photographic projects during this period.
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Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Jean-Marie Simon Papers; Box and Folder; Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
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Ownership and Custodial History
Originally part of Human Rights Watch records, RG 5: Americas Watch, 1966-1994 (Bulk, 1980-1994), Series 3, Guatemala Files, 1966-1994, Subseries 3.1: Jean-Marie Simon, 1966-1988.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
2016.2017.M046: Source of acquisition--Jean-Marie Simon. Method of acquisition--Donation; Date of acquisition--6/10/2016.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed cml 09/11/2016.
Finding aid |a written cml 09/11/2016.
2016-10-06 xml document instance created by Christopher M. Laico.
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Jean-Marie Simon is a human rights investigator, lawyer, and photojournalist. After completing her undergraduate studies at Georgetown University in 1978, Jean-Marie Simon received a Fulbright Scholarship to study the indigenous narrative in the work of Ecuadorian novelist and playwright Jorge lcaza Coronel (1906-1978). Within three weeks of arriving in Ecuador, however, she abandoned her original intention of pursuing a career in linguistics in favor of the people, in whom she found both an interest and an affinity. She obtained a 35mm camera and documented their native Indian traditions and their poor often desperate lives.
Upon her return to New York, Simon decided to follow photojournalism full-time and refined her skills as a photographer for the Associated Press (AP). Over the next couple of years, imbued with a strong social conscience, Simon tackled head on projects of deep social concern and political awareness. In 1979, for example, Simon documented the lives of the homeless women living in the lavatories of New York City's Penn Station. Finding that the AP was not very interested in the social content of her work, she decided to take the next step in her photography career and travel on assignment to Guatemala for Amnesty International.
Arriving in December 1980 and designed originally as a three-month assignment, Simon stayed in Guatemala for over seven years. An indefatigable investigator, throughout the violent decade of the 1980s, she travelled all over Guatemala interviewing hundreds of Guatemalans, photographing their ways of life, and documenting the governmental repression of the Ixil a Maya people indigenous to the Cuchumatanes mountains by the forces of Efraín Ríos Montt, who served from 1982 to 1983 as the President of Guatemala. In 1988, Simon chronicled this story in her widely acclaimed volume of photographs, Guatemala: Eternal Spring, Eternal Tyranny (WW Norton, 1987).
Desiring to have a greater impact on the lives of the people she photographed, Simon has set aside her camera and completed her legal training at Harvard Law School. Jean-Marie Simon now utilizes photographs as visual evidence as a legal advocate pursuing justice on behalf of her former photographic subjects.